As you know, the United States is going toe to toe with Vladimir Putin and Russia over their invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a nuclear state, and earlier this month Ukraine’s Minister of Defense revealed that Kiev, which is the capital city of Ukraine, has received threats of nuclear retaliation from Russia through unofficial channels — that is, if they continue to fight pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
And here we are talking about sexual sin on this podcast, like yesterday, when we talked about Burger King, Apple, Subaru, and Target. Some people say we’re wasting our time talking about people’s private lives — talking about sexual lust and homosexual sin. Shouldn’t our attention be drawn to the standoff with Russia right now? Isn’t that more important than talking about corporations that promote sexual sin? The answer is no, says John Piper in his sermon “Battling the Unbelief of Lust,” which he preached 25 years ago on the text 1 Thessalonians 4:1–8. Here’s what he said.
What’s the Big Deal?
The second question this morning is, So what? That is the question of our culture. So what? Our culture says, “Come on. Let’s deal with something important, like nuclear arms or justice. Get off this personal piety — these private, individual choices that have no relevance for what is going on in this world that is crashing down around us. Get up where it counts.” Do you know anyone who talks like that?
They say that what counts is whether you boycott companies in South Africa, whether you oppose President Reagan’s plan for “Star Wars” Defense Systems. Sleeping around — and even just thinking about it — is no big deal if you are in the picket line at Honeywell. It is no big deal to flip through Playboy magazine if you are on the airplane flying to peace talks in Geneva.
I mean, you are talking about teeny, insignificant things, they say. Those things are not important — what you do with your brain in regard to sex or what you do with your body in your own personal relationship with another person. What is important is big things, like nuclear arms and justice. That is the way the religious mind reasons when it has forsaken a supreme regard for God. That is the way the religious mind reasons when a supreme regard for God and his word have been forsaken.
God has a different message than that, and it is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:6: “. . . that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.” This means that the consequences of lust are going to be worse than the consequences of nuclear war.
All that nuclear war can do is kill five billion bodies, and Jesus said very plainly: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” After that, he has nothing that he can do. “Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5).
If this text says that God is going to be the avenger on those who ignore the warnings against lust, then I think I can say with the complete authority of the Bible that the consequences of lust are ten million times greater than the consequences of nuclear holocaust.
The only reason for denying that would be unbelief in eternity. If you are secular through and through, if you are humanist through and through, if man is the center of your life, and his span on this earth is it, what I am saying right now is, of course, hogwash.
If you are God-centered, if the Bible is the word of God, and if this text is in the Bible, then you see the response “Come on, deal with something significant” as irrational and insane, because how you deal with lust has to do with where you spend eternity. And that is a long, long time.